Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
Wenatchee, WA 98801
Jolly Mountain Fire - Frequently Asked Questions
Updated September 20, 2017
About the fire:
Where is the Jolly Mountain Fire and how big is it? The Jolly Mountain Fire is burning 6 miles north/northwest of Cle Elum, WA. As of September 18, the fire has burned approximately 36,808 acres. Effective fire suppression and seasonal fall weather have considerably slowed the fire’s growth.
Click here to view larger map.
When and how did the fire start? The Jolly Mountain Fire was detected on August 11. The fire was started by multiple strikes from a lightning storm.
Why wasn’t the fire put out when it was first reported? The fire quickly grew to 100 acres the first day and 300 acres by the next day. Steep slopes, rugged terrain and the distance from road systems limited access to the fire. Given the terrain and dense dry forest conditions, to attempt a direct attack would have been extremely dangerous. Helicopter water drops and retardant drops from planes would not have been effective on such a widespread area and in that type of terrain. The potential complexity of the fire necessitated a change from the local Type 3 Incident Management Team (IMT) to a Type 2 Team within three days due to increasing size, extremely dry forest conditions, and its potential to become a threat to homes and communities. Due to the inaccessibility, firefighters began work on indirect control lines with the highest probability of success to protect homes, resources, and other values at risk. Control lines are defensible fire breaks using natural or constructed barriers and treated fire edges.
What has been done to limit growth of the fire? As complexity continued to increase, a Type 1 IMT assumed command of the fire on September 4th. Under the management of this team, firefighters completed construction of indirect line in locations that could be safely accessed. Following completion of burnout operations to secure those lines and hold the fire at those planned containment lines, firefighters were able to halt fire growth towards nearby communities. With completion of these objectives, the Type 1 IMT transferred management of the fire to a Type 3 IMT, on Monday, September 18. The Type 3 IMT is completing mop up, backhauling equipment, removing hazard trees along roadways, and repairing damage resulting from fire suppression activities.
When will the fire be completely contained? Although much of the western, southern, and eastern perimeters have been contained, the northern perimeter of the fire is burning in remote and extremely rugged terrain that poses a high risk for firefighters on the ground. Growth of the uncontrolled fire perimeter to the north has been minimal because of sparse vegetation and rocky terrain and fire personnel have further reduced potential for spread through the use of strategic water drops. The northern perimeter will continue to be monitored until seasonal rain and snowfall puts the fire out.
What is being done to repair damage from the fire? Over the coming days and weeks, the Forest will be completing Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) assessments. Forest hydrologists, soil scientists, and other experts, will be working with local emergency management to assess the potential for future flooding or debris flow on public lands affected by this fire. BAER is focused on protecting life, property, water quality, and environmental deterioration from immediate possibilities of damage from exposed soil, runoff, or possible flooding. Even though there is still active fire on the ground, the Forest is already identifying critical BAER needs and assessing for immediate threats to human life and safety, property, and other resources.
What does the forest look like now? Wildfires often burn with varying intensity depending on terrain and fuel type (timber, brush, grass), creating a mosaic, patchy pattern. Some areas within the Jolly Mountain Fire perimeter may appear unchanged while in other places there may be a reduction of understory brush, dead trees, and fallen debris but with large healthy trees still remaining intact. In the areas that experienced more intense fire behavior the landscape may be very different than what people remember from before. Fire weakened trees may have fallen or broken. Areas that were once shaded may now be exposed to sun, allowing new growth to take hold and regenerate varieties of plant life.
How can I stay informed about the fire and fire evacuations?
Check for updated fire information on Inciweb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5496/.
Any changes to evacuation advisories will be issued by Kittitas County Emergency Operations Center: https://www.co.kittitas.wa.us/sheriff/
Can I hike, camp, or drive near the fire? Not within fire closure areas. These closures are in place to ensure public and firefighter safety. Fires can flare up and move swiftly with little notice. Closure areas include a “buffer” of unburned land surrounding the fire that provides emergency management officials time to implement evacuation procedures, should a shift in conditions warrant. In some areas, it may not be safe to enter until fallers can complete the removal of fire-weakened hazard trees from roadways. The extent of the road and area closures is expected to decrease in the coming weeks; however, closures closer to the fire may remain in place for some time to protect the public. Visitors are reminded to check current conditions before traveling to the area:
Jolly Mountain Fire closure information: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/closures/5496/Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest alerts and notices: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/okawen/alerts-notices
After the Fire:
What should I know when reentering a burned area? Walking through blackened areas is dangerous for people and pets. Even after rain, deep pockets of heat will remain for some time. Trees may fall easily, even without wind, and rocks and other debris may fall downhill on fire-weakened slopes. Heavy precipitation could increase the risk of flooding and mudflows in the burned area.
Click here to view "after the fire" handout.
How long will there be smoke in the area? Smoke from the Jolly Mountain Fire and the numerous other large fires burning in the region is likely to diminish throughout the coming weeks as fire activity decreases. Visit https://wasmoke.blogspot.com/ for air quality and smoke information.
What can I do to protect my home from the next wildfire? Visit http://firewise.org for suggestions on how to defend your home and community from wildfire.